HubSpot and Marketo are considered the #1 and #2 marketing automation softwares in the world. ActiveCampaign, on the other hand, is a powerful and easy-to-use marketing automation & sales CRM platform designed for small businesses on a budget. How do you decide which is right for you?
Your “tech stack” is the set of technologies/platforms that your organization uses to execute and analyze marketing across the customer lifecycle, while scaling your business. A key part of this stack is your marketing automation software. Marketing automation software is a tool designed to help marketers capture leads, nurture them as they move down the funnel, and analyze lead behavior and campaign performance.
HubSpot and Marketo are considered the #1 and #2 marketing automation softwares in the world. Both are well-established platforms that marketers would be wise to consider when choosing a marketing automation software. ActiveCampaign, on the other hand, is a powerful and easy-to-use marketing automation & sales CRM platform designed for small businesses on a budget.
So how do you decide which is right for you? Here we discuss each platform’s pros and cons, as well as which stage of growth they are best for.
Marketo is a solid marketing automation tool with a good reputation. Founded in 2006, it has expanded its products and services for more advanced, customized solutions for large organizations. Today, Marketo is active on over 19,000 websites with over 100,000 users. Tools you can find within marketo include: marketing automation, account-based marketing, email, mobile, social, digital ads, web, marketing analytics, and predictive content.
Where Marketo really shines as a marketing tool is by offering customized solutions that help large organizations integrate marketing automation with their existing business systems. You can scale marketing efforts and engagement easily through smart campaigns, and manage multiple brands and large teams across locations.
Pricing: Marketo costs $895 per month for up to 10,000 contacts. Full feature pricing is $3,195 per month.
Marketo is great for growth marketers who are looking to scale their marketing programs, allowing companies to promote their brands across many different channels. Also, if your company uses Salesforce as your CRM, you will be happy to know that Marketo was built on the Salesforce platform, (meaning it integrates with Salesforce better than almost any other marketing tool). Finally, their software is designed around email marketing, which is the feature they excel at the most. Large companies that require intricate email campaigns across a wide variety of customer bases can customize their email campaigns in great detail.
Marketo’s main drawback is that it’s not actually an all-in-one solution. For one, Marketo does not have a built-in CRM like some other solutions, and its database is spread across multiple systems making it difficult to navigate the platform. Perhaps the biggest complaint about Marketo is that their features are overly complicated to use. Since it is an enterprise-driven product, and most customers opt for a custom solution, their platform usually requires more IT knowledge and isn't the type of tool a person with brief marketing automation experience can just pick up as they go.
HubSpot, also founded in 2006, is used on almost 33,000 websites with over 96,000 active users. HubSpot is responsible for pioneering the inbound methodology commonly used by today’s digital marketers, so it makes sense they would build a platform for just that. Sharing many of the same features as Marketo, HubSpot is a true all-in-one inbound marketing machine, offering a landing page builder, ad management, conversational bots, forms, list segmentation, ad retargeting, and more. You can do pretty much everything needed to run a comprehensive inbound marketing campaign - easily build email, social, and ad campaigns, leverage automation to streamline processes, and report on your campaigns with powerful analytics. Moreover, they expanded beyond just marketing into sales, and now even customer service.
Pricing: HubSpot offers a free version of its hubs, with their Starter plan costing $50/mo.
Perhaps one of the greatest pros is HubSpot’s free CRM. When creating marketing automations and workflows, you have the benefit of integrating Marketing and Sales within one system for better visibility, and less room for error. You only have to learn one set of software tools with HubSpot, because everything is built into one (very user-friendly) system. If you're looking for an end-to-end solution and don’t have any coding experience, you won't find much better than HubSpot.
In our experience, there are few downsides to using HubSpot unrelated to human error, (such as automation mistakes). Like all other automation tools, their platform requires some manual work to get started with automating, (building sequences, setting schedules, etc). We've also found that larger organizations with very complex sales processes need a bit more flexibility than is offered in the HubSpot CRM -- however, in this case, you can still integrate your chosen CRM with HubSpot for marketing automation.
ActiveCampaign is a user friendly, all-in-one marketing tool for small to mid sized businesses. Their platform combines email marketing, marketing automation, and CRM software into one platform - similar to HubSpot. You can create email campaigns, build landing pages from forms, nurture contacts and store them in the CRM, and automate most processes with their automation builder - an easy to use, flowchart-like tool. While their features can seem overwhelming, they are easy to learn and allow you to set up virtually any automation you could think of – sales follow-ups, automated segmentation, triggered campaigns, dynamic email content and more.
Pricing: ActiveCampaign has four plans: Lite (from $9/month), Plus (from $49/month), Professional (from $129/month) and Enterprise (from $229/month).
ActiveCampaign is easy to use, so a novice would be able to pick it up quite quickly compared to a tool like Marketo. Their drag-and-drop abilities and intuitive page designs give the user a level of comfort that is hard to come by on other platforms. The best part about ActiveCampaign is that you can create very complicated workflows that read like a flowchart. A lot of today’s B2B marketing campaigns require incredibly intricate workflows that can become very confusing/susceptible to mistakes, but ActiveCampaign’s clear and easy interface allows users to feel confident in their workflows. Additionally, their CRM can monitor a contact’s progression from prospect to customer. A deal opportunity can be moved along the sales pipeline through stages, giving users a visual representation of how close the opportunity is from its goal - and you can create automations around these deal flows!
The main drawback we’ve seen with ActiveCampaign is the lack of a “drip” functionality. If you are trying to send a one-off email to a very large list of contacts you could run into issues with spam filters or sending to multiple contacts at the same company at the same time, (which we want to avoid). Also, only their higher-priced plans offer the lead scoring feature, so if you are short on cash and this is a key feature for you, you may want to consider another option.
Which one is better for Account-Based Marketing?
All three of these platforms can be used in your ABM efforts. HubSpot has the most robust free ABM-specific features that can be activated around your target accounts, such as contact and company properties, “target accounts home”, ABM reports and workflows, a LinkedIn ads connection, and more. Marketo offers some standard ABM tools such as email and smart campaigns, as well as specialized ABM tools that leverage the insights from your AI-based target account list to segment your account-level audiences by rank, propensity scores, engagement activity, and more. This tool allows you to personalize the messaging based on title, buying stage and best-fit indicators to make sure you're staying as relevant as possible. However to access these “Marketo ABM” features you would need to pay to add them to your subscription.
Ultimately, we stand behind HubSpot and ActiveCampaign as our favorite, affordable automation tools for B2B startups. Marketo is a tool best used for larger companies looking to scale their marketing with users experienced in growth marketing and IT, and can become very expensive very quickly. How to choose between HubSpot and ActiveCampaign? That will depend on which features matter most to you. If you are looking for a potentially free, easy to use, all-in-one tool with relatively simple automations, we recommend HubSpot. If your marketing efforts rely heavily on intricate automations, you would benefit more from using ActiveCampaign. Learn more about choosing the right tech stack here.
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